Sommelier Roundtable: Favorite Female-Powered Wines

Drink well while supporting women’s careers in wine with these picks from 6 somms of Restaurant Award winners

Sommelier Roundtable: Favorite Female-Powered Wines
One of Las Vegas–based sommelier Sanae Halprin's favorite women winemakers is Marimar Torres of Marimar Estate in Sonoma, shown here with her daughter Cristina. (Alanna Hale)
Mar 12, 2021

As more women enter the field of wine, the industry inches closer to a world where “female winemakers” are viewed simply as winemakers, without the novelty of a label. But as we work toward that ideal, now is the time to showcase and uplift the women who still represent a minority of winery owners and winemaking staff, but have been paving the way for future generations.

Where should you start exploring? We asked six sommeliers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners about their favorite wines made by women, and they had a tough time limiting their picks to just a few. There’s a diverse selection of stellar wines in this category to be enjoyed, but here are some of their stand-outs.

Wine Spectator: Do you have any favorite female-owned wineries, or any favorite bottlings made by women winemakers?

Jessica Altieri, director of beverage for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Palm Beach, Fla.

Rock Wall Wine Company should be on your radar for 2021. It’s an urban winery located on the former Alameda Naval Air Base—literally in an airport hangar. Winemaker and president Shauna Rosenblum is a rock star. She is carrying on the legacy of her late father Kent Rosenblum, the California Zinfandel icon, while making her own mark on the wine world in a huge way.

I have judged wine competitions with Shauna across the country for over a decade, and her innovative winemaking is just starting to take launch. A must-try is her 92-point 2018 Maggie’s Vineyard Zinfandel Reserve. And did I mention Kamala [Harris] is a member of their wine club?!

Jason Irving, wine director at Topper’s at the Wauwinet in Nantucket, Mass.

So many amazing options here: Antica Terra Ceras Pinot Noir 2017 from Maggie Harrison, formerly of Sine Qua Non, is elegant, delicate and pretty as a quality Oregon Pinot Noir. From Pierre Matrot in Burgundy, France, Adèle and Elsa Matrot. I love all of their bottlings, especially that they do 375 [mls] as well. And Gaja Vineyards’ Gaia Gaja. She is so engaging, dynamic, and carrying the torch on for the namesake, but with her own new techniques and ideas.

Hannah Barton, assistant sommelier at Herons in Cary, N.C.

Too many to name! The one currently on the top of my list is A Tribute to Grace. Angela Osborne is a winemaker from New Zealand who moved out to Santa Barbara, Calif., in search of the best sites to grow Grenache (which also happens to be my favorite variety). She makes nine different wines, all 100 percent Grenache, reflecting different sites and winemaking styles. I've had the chance to taste a few of them, and they've all blown me away.

Shanning Newell, head sommelier at Bourbon Steak in Nashville

One female-owned winery that came onto my radar this past year was McBride Sisters. The winery is owned by two sisters with an incredible story of growing up unaware of each other on opposite sides of the world and coming together later in life to discover they both have a passion for wine, and opening a winery in California. They make a delicious sparkling rosé from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, that is one of my go-to’s for weeknight hangs with the girls.

Ramon Sosa, co-owner and general manager at Maxwells Restaurant & Bar in West Fargo, N.D.

Two of my favorites are Betty O'Shaughnessy from O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery and Julie Johnson from Tres Sabores [in California].

Sanae Halprin, sommelier at the Bellagio in Las Vegas

Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards, Marimar Torres of Marimar Estate in Sonoma and Véronique Boss-Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin, Oregon. All of them happen to be known for their Pinot Noir, and that's what I enjoy.

Eric Perejda, sommelier at Beano's Cabin in Beaver Creek, Colo.

There are too many to list all my favorites, but I have always been a fan of Merry Edwards. I had the pleasure of spending time with her on a sommelier trip to the Russian River Valley. I was very impressed with her knowledge, experience and accomplishment; she had a strong presence in the seminars amongst other winemakers. Merry also broke a lot of barriers in the male-dominated winery industry during the 1970s as a female winemaker.

I also must mention a few others: Helen Turley on her various wine projects; Heidi Barrett’s Cabernet Franc from Paradigm is one of my favorites from Oakville in Napa Valley. And Anne-Claude Leflaive was producing some wonderful wines from her biodynamic Clau de Nell estate in the Loire—even though the fame in her name rests in Burgundy.

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